Success in networking starts by showing up

“Spin a globe and randomly place your finger where there is land and I will know someone there,” says Ron Burton, a past president of Rotary International. His extensive worldwide network exists because of his active participation in the Rotary Club and by connecting with its members while addressing social causes focused on the underprivileged. 

You’ve got to know people in order to succeed in business and that is why networking is critical. Companies can’t do business with you if they do not know that you exist and therefore you must routinely expand your boundaries, establish relationships and build trust.

Rotary’s brand statement emphasizes that it ‘joins leaders who exchange ideas and take action to serve communities everywhere’ and networking remains an important part of its character, without which all its extraordinary achievements wouldn’t be possible. It is one of the most successful membership organizations in the world with 1.2 million members in over 200 countries.

Last week 26,000 Rotarians gathered in Toronto, Canada for their annual convention and the networking that took place was monumental. They’ve become really good at hosting incredible conferences after 110 years of organizing them in various cities around the globe making them the avid networkers Mecca. 

Immaculate planning is the hallmark of every convention and they plan them up to 5 years in advance in order to offer highly entertaining and inspiring content and an enabling networking environment in an exotic destination. The international conventions are pretty exclusive and open primarily to members who sign up in large numbers. 45,000 people attended the largest international convention which was held in Osaka, Japan in 2004.

Any city they choose is immediately turned into a networking paradise as they connect in predesignated seating areas in the convention centre, food courts, in the corridors and on the streets. Members make arrangements well in advance to meet with friends from different parts to discuss projects and ideas, which they do with wanton abandon in the local restaurants, night clubs and residents homes. 

New technology is never far behind, and if you happened to forget your calling cards, hopefully you didn’t forget your smartphone. Rotary provides a convenient convention app that gives you the A to Z of the event complete with delegate profiles and the ability to connect with them virtually at first, and then physically if desired. 

Apart from the formal agenda that consists of critically acclaimed speakers and powerful breakout sessions that offer blended learning, massive dinner and entertainment events are scheduled. The social events are truly the life blood of networking and you’ve got to bring your A-game to the event.

As you build your network remember that 80 per cent of success is showing up. Attend events that put you in the playing field and the opportunities to connect will present themselves to you. It also helps to define what you want out of the event, and then prepare any material that will facilitate that outcome. It could be as simple as printing business cards or writing a concept paper that you can share with relevant people you meet. 

Be open to interacting with new people because that is where the fun and inspiration lays, and the power of networking multiplies when you really get to know people.

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About Joe Otin

CEO of The Collective interactive ad agency, Chairman of the Advertising Standards Board of Kenya, and Rotary Governor Elect of District 9212 covering Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea & South Sudan.

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